Cumberland Times-News

February 18, 2013

Terrapin Run dominates hearing

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A hearing on the county’s septic tiers turned into an extensive discussion on the proposed Terrapin Run development in eastern Allegany County. Among those speaking during the hearing was Richard Hall, secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning.

“Our only issue here is Terrapin Run,” Hall said, saying the rest of the county’s map was fine and in accordance with state law. “We want to work with you on that,” Hall said. However, the state and county are looking at things somewhat differently, and then there’s the developer.

Attorney Robert Paye represents the developer of Terrapin Run, and he thinks the state is usurping local authority.

“You’re not bound by those comments,” Paye said of comments by the state planning department about septic limits for Terrapin Run. “The power still lies with the elected county commissioners and that’s where it belongs.”

The state, county and developer continue to wrangle over the future of the development and the land involved. A lawsuit was temporarily settled, but the two-year window to work out a final decision will end in September. Initially, the development was planned for 4,300 homes near the Green Ridge State Forest.

Terrapin Run was planned to be set on 935 acres in eastern Allegany County by Terrapin Run LLC.

The MDP is not happy with the county’s tier map, which chooses areas for development and conservation in four tiers. The tiers vary in whether sewer service and septic systems are required or allowed.

Terrapin Run has been designated as a Tier II subdivision on county planning maps for years, Commissioner Bill Valentine said. That means the subdivision would not have sewer service, but could be built using wells and septics systems to handle water and waste needs.

The MDP specifically took issue with Terrapin Run’s designation and required the county to hold Monday’s hearing, which occurred at the county office complex.

The MDP said Terrapin Run doesn’t qualify as a Tier II subdivision and must be designated Tier IV for conservation, which would not allow for development.

Developer Michael Carnock has said he’d be willing to hear an offer from the state for a purchase of the property. While Tier 4 does allow for minor subdivisions on spetic systems, it requires a special exemption.

Paye said it was wrong for the state planners to offer comment when they had signed the agreement to end the lawsuit.

Because Terrapin Run was in a locally designated growth area, the tier limits should not apply as the state was trying to impose them, Paye said.

“Urban land use controls are being imposed on rural counties,” Paye said. “We all know how desperate we are in Allegany County for that (economic development).”

County Attorney Bill Rudd said the state is slowing down a possible resolution to the whole issue.

“The state is dragging its feet on the appraisal ... there has to be an appraisal,”

Before the state can consider buying the property, change in the tier map would lower the value of Carnock’s property, Valentine said.

Angela Patterson, a county land use and planning engineer, also said the county has applied to the state for an exemption from the tier maps for Tier IV areas in the county.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.